Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Paul Farmer

Pub Date: July 12th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-58648-973-1
Publisher: PublicAffairs

From the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and members of his team, a searing firsthand account of the earthquake and its aftermath.

Farmer (Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader, 2010, etc.) presents consequences of the outrage that U.S. law—e.g., the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961—makes it impossible to do what needs to be done in a country like Haiti. Relief and reconstruction funds cannot go to government agencies or to rebuild government infrastructure; instead, they must be funneled into NGOs. Haiti's government, writes the author, is operating out of a small police station on a shoestring budget. More than 40 percent of government employees were killed, and 28 out of 29 ministries were leveled. Yet, under the ruling law, because of Haiti’s history of human-rights violations, the United States cannot contribute to rebuilding government infrastructure or paying public employees, including doctors, nurses and medical technicians. The NGOs and volunteers who receive the funds can't discuss policy priorities, make laws or coordinate the scale of activity required, and they siphon funds into overhead and operating costs. Farmer has been involved in Haiti for 25 years, during which time he has warned policy makers about the country’s precarious position. Unfortunately, the results have been very close to what he was predicted for years—at least 2 million people are still displaced, one-third of the population is directly affected and cholera has become a major problem. Other contributors to this book include Edwidge Danticat, Evan Lyon and Dubique Kobel.

An eye-opener of a report and a wake-up call that change is needed.